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World Cup 1998: When Zidane outshone Ronaldo

FIFA decided to increase the number of teams in the tournament from 24 to 32, leading to a larger qualifying group of 174 countries.

Host: France
Equipment: 32
Format: Group stage, knockouts
Matches: 64
Goals: 171
Winner: France
runners-up: Brazil
Golden Boot: Davor Suker (Croatia)

Background

The longest World Cup (32 days) was held in 1998 when France hosted for the second time (after 1938).

FIFA decided to increase the number of teams in the tournament from 24 to 32, leading to a larger qualifying group of 174 countries.

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There were four debuts, from four different continents, underscoring the broader scope of the game.

Croatia, Jamaica, Japan and South Africa played their first World Cup. Portugal, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Uruguay failed to qualify.

After the departure of some of the heroes of their 1994 victory, Brazil discovered another talented striker: Ronaldo.

The 21-year-old scored four goals and provided five assists on Brazil’s way to the final. He was the poster boy for young soccer fans around the world and looked poised to win his first world title.

However, Ronaldo’s name was not on the team sheet on the day of the final, causing a stir around the world. It was later added, but the player was unable to replicate his performances from the previous games and it was later discovered that he was unwell before the game.

Among the surprises of the tournament were Norway’s 2-1 victory over Brazil and Nigeria’s 3-2 victory over Spain. Croatia, led by the sensational Davor Suker, made their way to the semi-finals with wins over Romania (1-0) and three-time winners Germany (3-0).

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However, they fell short in the semi-finals against hosts France.

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France were counting on the success of several stars, including Zinedine Zidane, who scored the team’s first two goals in the final. The third was added by Emmanuel Petit and the country of origin burst with joy at their first World Cup victory.

highs

After being blacklisted for years by apartheid, South Africa played its first World Cup.

The golden goal rule was introduced to encourage attacking play during extra time.

Despite the political tensions between Iran and the US, both teams showed mutual respect and took a memorable group photo with their arms around each other.

Michael Owen scored a marvelous goal, one of the most memorable goals of the World Cup, when he netted England’s second in their Round of 16 match.

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The official song of the tournament, The Cup of Life by Ricky Martin, gained worldwide recognition and has been named the best World Cup anthem by multiple publications and critics.

A few months before the tournament, EA Sports released World Cup 98, its first international soccer game after securing the rights from FIFA. The game became a hit among video game fans.

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After making his way through the tournament, Brazil’s Ronaldo was a shadow of his former self during the final, sparking conspiracy theories and investigations.

Saudi Arabia and South Korea sacked their respective coaches after the first two group stage matches ended in defeat.

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